- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

COPENHAGEN — A Danish court rejected a lawsuit yesterday against the newspaper that first printed prophet Muhammad cartoons, some of which depicted Islam as a violent religion.

The City Court in Aarhus rejected claims by seven Danish Muslim groups that the 12 drawings printed in the Jyllands-Posten daily were meant to insult the prophet and make a mockery of Islam.

The court conceded that some Muslims saw the drawings as offensive, but found there was no basis to assume that “the purpose of the drawings was to present opinions that can belittle Muslims.”

Jyllands-Posten’s editor in chief hailed the court’s decision as a victory for freedom of speech.

“Everything but a pure acquittal would have been a disaster for press freedom and the media’s ability to fulfill its duties in a democratic society,” Editor in Chief Carsten Juste said.

The newspaper has apologized for offending Muslims, but stands by its decision to print the cartoons in September 2005 as a challenge to a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Muslims.

The caricatures were reprinted in European newspapers in January and February, fueling protests in the Islamic world. Some turned violent, with Danish outposts attacked and people killed in Libya and Afghanistan.

Muslims were outraged at the court decision.

“The dismissal of the lawsuit against the newspaper, which was expected, confirms the ongoing intention to harm our religion and our prophet,” said Mahmoud al-Kharabsheh, an independent legislator who heads the Jordanian parliament’s legal committee.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal the verdict, spokesman Kasem Ahmad told Danish radio, adding that he feared Muslims around the world would be upset by the ruling.

In Lebanon, where protesters set fire to the building housing the Danish consulate in February, Islamic studies professor Radwan el-Sayyed said yesterday’s verdict was a “misinterpretation of freedom of expression.”

He said he did not expect a repeat of February’s riots, however, saying people knew they were counterproductive.

“There will be anger, newspaper articles condemning the court decision, but I don’t expect there to be street protests,” Mr. el-Sayyed said.

In Syria, where a mob attacked and set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in February, legislator Mohammed Habash, who heads the Islamic Studies Center in Damascus, said the ruling would “widen the gap between the Western and Islamic world.”

One of the cartoons showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse.

The court said some of the drawings could be perceived as linking Islam to terrorism, but added the purpose was to provide social commentary rather than to insult or ridicule Muslims.

Islamic law, which historically was not intended to apply in nations outside the Muslim world, forbids any depiction of the prophet.

The seven Danish Muslim groups filed the defamation suit in March, after Denmark’s top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.

The plaintiffs, who claimed to have the backing of 20 more Islamic organizations in the Scandinavian country, had sought $16,860 in damages from Mr. Juste and Flemming Rose, the culture editor who supervised the cartoon project.

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